Oklahoma State was flat – which was predictable following Sunday's emotional loss to Kansas – and Texas A&M came to Stillwater knowing a victory over the nation's eighth-best team would give a major boost to its NCAA Tournament chances.
It was a perfect trap for the Cowboys. But Lucas wouldn't let it happen.
The OSU senior point guard scored a season-high 27 points - including 16 of his team's 36 second half points – to rally the Cowboys to a 69-63 victory over the Aggies in front of a national television audience (ESPN2) at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
OSU, 21-5 overall and 11-4 in the Big 12, closes out the regular season on Saturday night against Texas. It will be the final game that six seniors – Daniel Bobik, Terrence Crawford, Joey Graham, Stephen Graham, Lucas and Ivan McFarlin – will ever play at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Lucas teamed with fellow senior Joey Graham to will the Cowboys to victory Wednesday night. Those two teamed up to score 17 of OSU's final 19 points after Texas A&M had taken a 52-50 lead on Acie Law's layup with 8:29 remaining.
Lucas' jumper just moments later tied it back up 52-52, and then Joey Graham's three-point play put the Cowboys back up to stay with 5:24 left. But that would be OSU's final basket. Lucas (6-of-6), Joey Graham (also 6-of-6) and JamesOn Curry (2-of-2) went 14-of-14 from the free throw line in the final five minutes as the Cowboys hung on for the victory.
The Aggies pulled within three points several times in the game's final minutes but the Cowboys would always answer with a pair of free throws. OSU went to the foul line 19 times – and made all 19 – in the second half.
"(Texas A&M) is a good ball club. They are well coached and play the game hard. They played well," Lucas said. "When we had them down, we didn't keep them down, though. But we hung in there. We got the win. It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a win."
That's what the Cowboys needed to stay tied for second place in the Big 12 – just one game behind the league-leading Kansas Jayhawks.
"John is one of the best shooters on our team," said Joey Graham, who finished with 16 points, five rebounds and took a charge (the OSU coaching staff had him take charges from his teammates during practice this week after being disappointed in his defensive play at Kansas). "Anytime we can look to get John some shots, that's what we try to do, especially when he's hot. We just try to keep feeding it to him."
Lucas fell short of tying his career-high of 30 points by just three points. Although the boxscore won't show it, he did score 30 points.
Lucas, standing in front of the Cowboys' bench, attempted an alley-oop pass to Ivan McFarlin in the first 15 seconds of the second half. McFarlin couldn't get his hands on the ball but the pass went into the basket. However, officials ruled that McFarlin had tipped the ball and ruled it a two-point basket by McFarlin, and the official scorer credited the basket to McFarlin.
Lucas wasn't complaining. He just wanted a win to stop the Cowboys' first two-game losing streak in more than two years.
"I was just playing inside the offense," said Lucas, who was 7-of-13 from the field (including 5-of-8 from three-point range) and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. "My teammates are doing a good job penetrating and pitching (the ball out to me). When my man helps, I just try to get to the open area.
"I give all the credit to my teammates because they always find me. When my man goes down to double, or when my man goes to help, I just move to an open spot and they know I'm going to be there. All I think about when I catch the ball is to make sure I get my feet set and shoot the ball."
Lucas, Cowboys Hold Off Texas A&M
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